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Doctor’s Simple Idea To Write Names And Titles On Scrub Caps Can Save Lives

Nov 18, 2023

Sometimes the simplest ideas can produce the most profound effect. This is certainly true in the case of Dr. Rob Hackett, an Australian anesthetist who decided to label his surgical scrub cap with his name and title. What’s truly astounding is how much critical time this can save in life-saving situations.

Hoping to eliminate any operating room confusion, Dr. Hackett decided to wear a scrub cap with his name on it: “Rob, Anesthetist.” After experiencing some light ribbing from his colleagues, he explained the thought process behind labeling scrub caps (called “theatre caps” Down Under and in other parts of the world).

Image via Rob Hackett

“The #TheatreCapChallenge is an initiative from the PatientSafe Network in response to concerns about how easily avoidable mistakes and poor communication are contributing to rising adverse events for our patients,” Dr. Hackett tells Bored Panda. “It has been adopted around the world with studies from the U.S. and U.K. demonstrating how this simple idea can decrease human errors in healthcare.”

In an operating room or emergency room, there is often a team of medical professionals surrounding a patient in need of medical attention at any given time. This can make things confusing — for the staff as well as the patient. And in a life-or-death situation, mere seconds are critical.

Image via Rob Hackett

Having a doctor, nurse, or medical assistant’s name on their scrub cap is a simple, effective way of cutting down on communication hiccups or time wasted. If medical staff members can’t recognize or recall the names of their colleagues in the chaos of the moment, this tactic reduces unnecessary delays.

Dr. Hackett’s idea is catching on in hospitals everywhere, with people sharing their own photos to submit to the #TheatreCapChallenge.

Some of the theatre caps are more professionally labeled, other’s are self-created.

The maternity team at a hospital in Surrey, England, shared how the #TheatreCapChallenge has improved the working atmosphere there.

“All staff in our obstetric theatre now wear scrub caps with their job titles clearly marked on them,” the caption for Royal Surrey Maternity Unit reads. “Birth partners, students and visitors are also clearly identified with their name and role written on disposable caps.”

Not only do these caps reduce communication errors for the unit, but it plays an important role in the lives of parents-to-be, too. “The feedback we’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive with parents saying that they feel much more secure knowing who is in the room with them.”

The identifying caps are definitely a trend that’s not only catching on, but looks like it might be here to stay for the staff members who have adopted the idea.

Dr. Hackett even shared photos and testimonials from medical professionals all over the world from his Twitter account.

Clinicians on all avenues of social media were more than happy to share what the #TheatreCapChallenge means to them.

Dr. Hackett says the campaign has been met with some pushback — usually by senior hospital staff who may feel the chain of command is affected by the cap labeling.

“In accepting change they’ll need to accept that what was happening previously, on their watch as it were, was not as good,” he says. “Within healthcare, this may mean we have to accept we’ve been hurting people, even killing people for years – often this can be too hard to bear.”

Here’s hoping scrub caps everywhere can follow suit with this idea so medical staff can continue to save time and save lives.

Cassandra Stone